Riyadh Flights and Travel Guide

Riyadh

General Information

ar-Riyad

46.77277780

24.64083330

Arab Standard Time
(GMT +3 hrs)

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Riyadh - Introduction

Saudi Arabia’s capital and largest city is situated on a large rocky plateau in the continental interior of the Arabian Peninsula.

It was once a small desert oasis where dates were cultivated but it rose to prominence in 1902 when King Abdul Aziz set off to unify the Kingdom. In 1932 the city was made the country capital and its development was further fuelled by the discovery of oil.

Today the city is primarily a business and shopping destination, its climate is harsh and sights few. Pockets of the old can still be found: in the midst of shiny skyscrapers one can see ancient mosques, shady trees and occasional camels.

But the glitzy modern metropolis never lets you forget that it is run on strictly Islamic moral and cultural codes. Note that women are not allowed access to certain attractions and sites and are not allowed to drive cars.

Next: Riyadh Climate »

Riyadh - Climate

In general, Riyadh is hot and dry. Summer temperatures reach up to 45C, but winters can be quite cold, at night temperatures can sometimes even plunge to zero. Rainfall is rare but what rain there is falls mostly in March and April.

January average temperature 14 deg Celsius 13 mm rainfall
February average temperature 16 deg Celsius, 10 mm rainfall
March average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 30 mm rainfall
April average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 30 mm rainfall
May average temperature 32 deg Celsius, 13 mm rainfall
June average temperature 34 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall
July average temperature 36 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall
August average temperature 35 deg Celsius, 0mm rainfall
September average temperature 32 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall
October average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall
November average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 5 mm rainfall
December average temperature 16 deg Celsius, 10 mm rainfall

Next: Riyadh Getting There »

Riyadh - Getting There

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PLANE

Riyadh is served by the King Khaled Airport (RUH), located around 35 km north of the city. The extensive airport has three terminals. Terminal 1 is used by the international carriers.

Transfer

Taxis are available at the rank outside the terminal. Make a price is agreed on before the ride. The trip to the city takes 30 minutes in good traffic conditions and costs around SR 70-90.
Hotel limousines are a good alternative and not much more expensive than taxis.

 

Getting Around

Riyadh is a car oriented city, with a shabby public transportation network. The city has no street addresses, so you have to orient yourself by major attractions and known landmarks in the vicinity of the places you want to reach.

TAXI

White taxis are used by most visitors to navigate the city.
Some Taxi drivers speak English, others don’t. Most are familiar with the major landmarks.

MINIBUS

Minibuses have a fixed rate of SR 2 and ply the city streets on numerous routes but these are only published in Arabic.

CAR

Hiring a car is the best way of traversing the city although the traffic can seem quite aggressive to the foreigner. Note that it is illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia.

WALK

Riyadh is not a pedestrian friendly city. There are few walkways and pedestrian bridges in the modern part of the city.
In al-Bathaa, however, walking is the only way of getting around due to the ancient narrow streets.

Next: Riyadh Activities »

Riyadh - Activities

SHOPPING

Kingdom Centre

Address: Al-Urubah Road
Web:
www.kingdomcentre.com.sa/
Phone: +966 (0)1 211 2222
Open: 9:00 – 12:00 noon & 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm

The Saudi prince-owned center boasts an award winning oval shaped building featuring a three level shopping mall, hundreds of stores, hotels, apartments, restaurants and spas.

 

Souq al-Thumairi

Address: Deira (next to Musmak Fortress)

This is the best known of all Riyadh souqs, with all imaginable goods on sale. You can find carpets, coffee pots, daggers, jewelry and more, some of it cheap, some expensive, but whichever it is, do not forget to haggle.

 

GOLFING

Even though virtually no Saudi plays golf, Riyadh has several good golf courses in and around the city, among which is the Arizona Golf Resort (www.agr.com.sa/), popular with expats, and the Dirab Golf Course (www.dirabgolf.com/) featuring a resident golfing tutor.

 

 

Next: Riyadh Attractions »

Riyadh - Attractions

BURJ AL MAMLAKAH / THE KINGDOM TOWER

Web: www.kingdomcentre.com.sa/
Address: Al-Urubah Road

The tower is 300 meters tall and is the tallest structure in Saudi Arabia. It is owned by the prince of Saudi’s royal family.
It features the headquarters of the prince’s holding company. The east wing is taken by an award-winning shopping center, the tower itself won the 2002 Emporis Skyscraper Award for design and functionality.

 

RIYADH MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY

Address: West of the old city centre, Al-Bathaa
Phone: (0)1 419 1210

This museum features local art and culture and ancient artifacts. It also gives a glimpse into the diverse history of the Arabian kingdoms.

 

AL MUSMAK CASTLE

Address: Al-Bathaa, city centre
Open: Saturday – Thursday: 8:00 am – noon & 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Men have access only on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday
Women may visit on other days, accompanied by male family members.
Families can visit only on Thursdays
Admission: Free

The mud brick castle was built around 1865 and is associated with the foundation of the Saudi Arabian kingdom. It was recently renovated and is now a museum where visitors can explore the Sitting Room, the Mosque, the Castle Gate, the well, and the Watch Towers which sit on all the four corners of the castle.

 

AL MURABBA’A PALACE

Address: Khazzan Street
Phone: (0)1 401 1999
Open: daily 9:00 am – 12:00 noon & 2:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Saturdays closed
Women may only visit with male family members on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons
Admission: Free

This old mud brick palace was built by King Abdul Aziz after he conquered Masmak Fortress.
The palace bears the reminder of the past and visitors can see how Arabian royalty once lived. You can visit the guard's room and storerooms, the reception salons, political offices and private apartments. Among items on display is also the first royal Rolls Royce.

 

AL FOUTA PARK

Address: by the side of Imam Faisal bin Turki Street (Khazan)
Entrance free

The oldest park in the city, it opened four or five decades ago and extends over an area of 40,000 square meters. It features big shady trees, myriads of flowers, green areas and long walkways. A great place to unwind, take a stroll or take kids to play. The park also features a cafeteria.

Next: Riyadh Restaurants »

Riyadh - Restaurants

Eating out is one of the few entertainment activities available in Riyadh for visitors and the city offers a good selection of restaurants of many cuisines.
The most expensive and exquisite restaurants are found in top hotels, and the budget ones are mostly small Pakistani and Indian eateries. Fast food chain restaurants are available in the city’s various malls.
The Olaya District has a multitude of restaurants ranging from Chinese, Mexican, French, Lebanese, American, to Indian and are all located quite near each other.

 

Spazio 77

Address: Al Aruba Street
Phone: +966 1 211 1888
Email:
info@spazio77.com

A trendy restaurant located on the 77th floor of the Kingdom Tower - the tallest building in the city. It serves a diverse selection of food, including steak, seafood, pasta, salad, and teppanyaki. The restaurant also offers a great view of the city if you can manage to get window seats.

 

Al-Andalus

Address: 330 King Abdul Azeez Street
Open: 24 hrs
Phone: +966 1 476 0000 / +966 1 478 0696

This restaurant serves authentic Arabic food, as well as continental cuisine. It is located in the four star Al Mutlaq hotel.

 

Al-Nafoura

Address: Osama bin Zaed Street
Phone: +966 1 230 3746 / +966 1 231 5086

The ultimate restaurant when it comes to exotic delicacies, serving Lebanese, as well as Saudi, and grilled food. The chefs there are highly esteemed.

 

Assaraya Turkish Restaurant

Address: Talateen Street

The delicious Turkish restaurant boasts great service and reasonable prices. Amongst its delicacies are clay pot chicken or lamb, meat kebabs and pita bread.

 

Next: Riyadh Events »

Riyadh - Events

Annual King's Cup Camel Race

Date: February
Location: near the Riyadh King Khaled International Airport

The annual race features over 2000 riders, most competitors are young boys trained especially for competing at this race.
The festival is a lively and colorful event.

 

Janadriyah Festival

Date: 12 to 26 February

The festival takes place for two weeks and is an opportunity to showcase the traditional crafts from all over the country. It is an important feature on the city events calendar.

 

Riyadh Festival for Shopping and Entertainment

Date: July

This annual event features discounts in the city’s various commercial centers and a varied entertainment program to accompany this champion shopping show.

 

Riyadh Motor Show

Date: December
Web:
www.recexpo.com
Location: Riyadh Exhibition Centre

The largest, oldest, most prominent Motor Show and market in the region attracts top manufacturers from around the globe to display their new products.

 

Ramadan

Date: the ninth month in the Islamic calendar

Ramadan is a month dedicated to fasting. Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink and smoke during the day.
On this occasion, visitors are also requested to respect the same in public. In addition, the majority of restaurants and eateries are shut during this time.

 

Eid al-Fitr

Date: at the end of the Ramadan

The festival marks the end of the fasting month Ramadan, and the whole country celebrates with feasts, holidays and daytrips, and people wear their best clothes. Note that during this time most establishments are closed.

Next: Riyadh Night Life »

Riyadh - Night Life

Nightlife in Riyadh is vastly different than in the Western world. Alcohol in Saudi Arabia is expressly forbidden, even in the hotels and use or handling of alcohol is severely punished.

There are no bars, nightclubs or discos. Restaurants serve non-alcoholic beer and non-alcoholic cocktails. There are no cinemas either. Even the shisha (smoking) cafes are banned from the city center. They can, however be found outside the city limits on, for example, Thumamah Street.

There are numerous traditional cafes as well as Western-style coffee shops in the city. Many are to be found in the city center, especially on the Tahlia Street (Prince Mohammed Bin Abdul Aziz Street) in Olaya.
Nightlife starts after the evening prayer when the sun sets and the temperature is lower.

Next: Riyadh History »

Riyadh - History

PRE – 20TH CENTURY

Riyadh was originally an oasis at the confluence of several riverbeds, known as Hajar. It produced huge amounts of dates and the Arabic name for orchard is rowdah. Eventually the entire settlement got to be known by that name and the oasis remained undisturbed throughout much of the history.
From the 17th Century onwards, most of the Arabian Peninsula was ruled by the Al-Sauds. In the 18th century the Egyptians and the Ottoman Turks took over, until the 20th century brought change.

MODERN (20TH CENTURY)

King Abdul Aziz raided and seized the city in 1902 and set off to unify the Kingdom in the years from 1904 to 1925. The city was made the capital of Saudi Arabia when he declared it a country in 1932.
At first the city was not the seat of government and commerce, however, and it was not until the 1970s that Riyadh rose to power, as political bodies and industry were pushed to move there.
The oil industry brought earnings which brought about the city’s modernization, and futuristic infrastructure.

RECENT

Riyadh’s population has grown enormously since its humble beginnings. Today the capital of Saudi Arabia is riding high on the money oil makes, and boasts the title of one of the richest and most flourishing cities in the world.

Next: Riyadh Etiquette »

Riyadh - Etiquette

Riyadh is a very strict city; in fact it is one of the most conservative in Saudi Arabia.
It is the strictest city concerning nightclubs, alcohol and clothing (for men and women). Alcohol is forbidden by law. Even small violations lead to prosecution and strict punishment.

Women are not allowed to drive cars or ride bicycles on public roads. They are also advised to avoid eye contact with men, as a simple smile can be grossly misinterpreted.

Dress modestly. Men should avoid wearing shorts above the knee, and women should avoid wearing tight clothes, and instead opt for baggy, loose fitting clothes with arms, legs, shoulders and head always covered.

Local women must wear the traditional headscarf (hijab) and long black garment covering the entire body (abaya). Western women and non-Muslim women are only required to cover their heads but not wear the full abaya.

Respect segregation between the sexes. There is little or no touching between men and women when greeting in public.
The standard greeting is Assalam alaikum (‘Peace be upon you') and the reply is Wa alaikum assalam (‘And upon you too be peace').

Keeping face is of great importance, so try not to lose your temper.
Avoid conversations on politics and religion. Also, it is considered ultimate rudeness to show disrespect for ones family name or tribe.

Use only your right hand for greeting and giving or receiving things.
Remove your shoes before entering a carpeted room.

Next: Riyadh Safety »

Riyadh - Safety

Riyadh has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. But nevertheless, take the standard precautions.
The city is one of the most conservative in Saudi Arabia. The muttawa or religious police are zealous volunteers who aim to propagate virtue and the Riyadh region is known to be the strictest. Visitors usually get off with a verbal warning but note that the muttawa have jurisdiction for detainment if there is a suspicion of un-Islamic conduct. The suspected must be handed to the police but reports of abuse and even deaths during custody still occur.

Segregation pervades all areas of society, so that single men and women have no possibility of interaction. There are three groups in regular society: families, single men, and single women. Families form the basic nucleus of Saudi society.
Segregation of the sexes is present in banks, hotels, restaurants, museums, coffee shops, shopping malls, etc. Separate days are designated for families, single women (rarely) and men.
All men are considered single men or bachelors, married or not, who are in public without their wife or family. They are not allowed in the company of any woman who is not their wife or a family member. Special bachelor sections in restaurants exist.
Single women are the most restricted group. It is of course against the law to be accompanied anywhere by a man who is not your husband or a family member.

The most severe crimes are, apart from the obvious murder and theft, are adultery, homosexuality and possession of alcohol or drugs.

Demonstrations and political gatherings are best avoided.
Homosexual behavior and adultery are illegal and can carry the death penalty.
Photographing local people, government buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed.
Women are not permitted to drive.
It is illegal to hold two passports and will be confiscated if discovered by the authorities.

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and the official Islamic religion pervades all aspects of life there.
Alcohol is forbidden. There are no bars and alcohol is not served anywhere, regardless of your religious persuasion. It may, however, be found at private parties, but bear in mind that corporal punishment does exist. It is rare for Westerners, but has nevertheless happened occasionally.

It is prohibited to publicly display non-Islamic religious articles. Crosses and Bibles are not permitted in the country. Also, pork products are not allowed in the country.
Travel to Mecca and Medina is forbidden to non-Muslims.
During Ramadan eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture.

Emergency Phone Numbers

Ambulance: 997
Police: 999
Emergency/ Traffic accident: 993
Fire: 998
International operator: 901
International directory: 900

King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center: 800-124-8999
(one of the major medical centers in Riyadh)

 

US Consulate Riyadh

Public hours: Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 1:00pm to 3:30pm. (CLOSED ON MONDAYS)
Web:
riyadh.usembassy.gov/
Phone: (966)(1)488-3800, Ext. 4664 or 4315
Fax: (966)(1)488-7670
ACS E-mail Inquiries:
RiyadhACS@state.gov

Next: Riyadh When To Go »

Riyadh - When To Go

The best time to visit Riyadh is from October to May when day temperatures are comfortable and nights are cool.

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